The Full 90

Three thoughts: Tim Melia steps up and Paulo Nagamura rescues Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC midfielder Paulo Nagamura (6) celebrates his goal against the Chicago Fire at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on Sunday, May 3, 2015. Sporting KC defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0.
Sporting KC midfielder Paulo Nagamura (6) celebrates his goal against the Chicago Fire at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on Sunday, May 3, 2015. Sporting KC defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0. Special to the Star

Some instant-ish reactions to Sporting Kansas City’s 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire.

Tim Melia comes up big — has he solved KC’s dilemma?

After a week of speculation (and some serious journalism shade being thrown on the topic), Peter Vermes pulled the trigger on a switch at goalkeeper, pushing Luis Marin to the bench in favor of journeyman Tim Melia.

Melia, formerly of Chivas USA and an MLS pool goalkeeper last year, came up huge in this game with three monster saves.

But, most importantly, Melia looked comfortable coming off his line and controlled his penalty box well. Something that Marin had struggled with — especially against the Houston Dynamo last week. Melia did the simple things right and maybe that’s enough for now.

It was a big moment for Melia, who was undoubtedly the man of the match for me.

Is there a goalkeeping controversy brewing? Let’s all calm down. The most popular player on the team is often the back-up to an embattled player. It’s one game — a good game — but it’s just one game.

“Tim played very well and we'll continue to move and get better from here.,” Peter Vermes said in the post-game press conference.

What is this team right now?

I honestly can’t get a solid read on this team right now.

At times, KC looks like the team everyone expected (challengers in the West). At others, like a team that could struggle to stay in the playoff spots. With their backs against the wall (like against Philadelphia or Houston), the players find enough resolve to break through and get a result. When dominating a game (like against Real Salt Lake), the team can’t get buy a goal.

They can explode for four goals, or struggle to find a break through.

Need more proof that they are a Jekyll and Hyde right now?

After tonight’s match, Kansas City has scored 12 goals — tied with three teams for third-best in the league behind FC Dallas (15) and Seattle (13). Kansas City has also allowed 12 goals — tied with two teams for second-worst in the league behind Philadelphia (18).

Kansas City has posted four shutouts (New York City, Real Salt Lake, Portland and Chicago) — but allowed 11 goals in four matches (Dallas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Houston).

Sporting KC’s defense has allowed just three goals in five home games — but have scored just five goals in those five games.

But… Kansas City is 3-2-4 and with 13 points just four points behind Vancouver in the Western Conference. I don’t know where this goes from here.

On the season, KC is one of the best teams at possession (averaging 53 percent per game) and creating shots (121, 2nd behind only Vancouver) but near the bottom of the league in passing success (75.6 percent) and shots on goal (28).

This game was the embodiment of that last paragraph: 14 shots (3 on target), 57.1 percent possession (but just 74 percent passing success).

But, the game-winning goal for KC featured a 12-play passing sequence. Because, of course it did.

Paulo Nagamura (of course) saves the day

When you need a late-game hero and you’re bench is bereft of proven MLS goal scorers, who do you turn too? Well, of course, Paulo Nagamura. (On a cross from Anibaba — who completed just 61 percent of his passes.)

The substitution didn’t make a lot of sense on paper (for Roger Espinoza), but it paid off on the field. Sometimes, that’s all that matters.

“I have a soft-spot for Naga,” Vermes said after the game. “I think he has an incredible winning mentality. He’s a fantastic professional. He’s a good leader with the guys and all the guys respect him. I never doubt that he’s going to come into the game and give everything he has. He’s 5-foot-nothing and he’s going up against a guy that is 6-foot-4 and his first action of the game is him trying to win a header. That’s just the way he competes and it’s big for the rest of our players when he’s out there.”

I’ll put $10 on Nagamura being in the starting lineup (somehow!) against D.C. United next week.

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